When artists and adventurers set out to explore unknown territories and peoples of the West in the 19th century, their ambitions resulted in important and captivating imagery. Early explorer and artist George Catlin was no exception. A lawyer from Philadelphia, Pa., Catlin became fascinated with Native Americans and had the foresight to know that their time as primitive people in North America was limited.
"He was one of the first artists to go west," said Minette Broschofsky, owner of Broschofsky Galleries in Ketchum. "For the Indians, it was the first white men they ever saw."
Broschofsky Galleries is featuring seven of the 31 lithographs from Catlin's "North American Indian" project, which were printed in London, England, from 1844 to 1845. The selection of hand-colored lithographs reveal Catlin's painted study of the Plains Indian culture.
"Catlin saw a delegation of Plains Indians in Pennsylvania, and it sparked his interest," Broschofsky said. "He went on the Yellowstone Steamship up the Missouri River and spent years traveling with a canoe and horses. It was a real adventurous project."
Broschofsky said Catlin painted hundreds of watercolor images, which is an incredible feat considering his environment and travel conditions.
"The Indians were intrigued by Catlin and very respectful of what he was doing. His project was quite amazing to them," Broschofsky said. "He collected Indian artifacts and toured the East and Europe giving lectures on Indian culture."
Broschofsky Galleries have been collecting early American art for 20 years and consider Catlin's work as fresh today as it was when it was first seen in the 1840s. The fascination with artists like Catlin is all in the process of how he recorded Indian culture while upholding a respect for it. Catlin told stories of the Plains Indian through his paintings depicting their clothing, dance ceremonies, methods of hunting and how they would break the wild ponies of the plains.
"It touches something that is elemental and natural in us," Broschofsky said. "It gives us our own sense of being. It touches our soul, and it's why we are here."
For more details on the exhibition, call 726-4950.